Posts Tagged ‘Americans With Disabilities Act’

Drilling Co. Hit With ADA, ADEA Lawsuit

An employer in Oklahoma apparently had it out for older job applicants, particularly if they had history of filing of filing workers’ compensation claims.

Horizontal Well Drillers (HWD), an oil and gas drilling company with its corporate offices in Purcell, Okla., violated the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) when it declined to hire applicants based on their age or reported history of filing workers’ compensation claims, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) alleged in a lawsuit filed on Wednesday.

According to EEOC’s suit, HWD used information from employment applications to discriminate in hiring based on applicants’ age and history of filing workers’ compensation claims. The suit also seeks relief for Wilbert Glover, an applicant whom HWD forced to undergo an allegedly unlawful post-job-offer medical exam. The agency claims that HWD also violated federal law when it withdrew Glover’s job offer based on information it learned from the exam.

In addition to these claims, EEOC asserts that HWD unlawfully failed to retain records, maintain confidentiality of employee and applicant medical records, and file required reports with the agency. HWD also violated the ADA by conducting background searches for information about applicants’ prior workers’ compensation claims, the EEOC charged.

EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma (EEOC v. Horizontal Well Drillers LLC, Case No. 5:17-cv-00879-R) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The agency seeks back pay and liquidated, compensatory, and punitive damages for Mr. Glover and those persons who were not hired because of HWD’s unlawful employment practices, as well as injunctive relief designed to prevent and address future discrimination based on age or disability and to otherwise bring the company into compliance with federal law.

“Excluding qualified workers because of their age or because they were previously injured on the job is not only illegal, it is bad business,” Andrea G. Baran, regional attorney for EEOC’s St. Louis District, said. “It not only robs job-seekers of an opportunity to work to support themselves and their families, it also causes businesses to lose out on valuable talent and experience.”

James R. Neely, Jr., director of EEOC’s St. Louis District Office, added, “Using stereotypes about age and disabilities to screen out applicants for high paying oil field jobs cannot be tolerated. Hiring qualified people with experience and ability makes sense. Refusing to hire such people because of their age or previous work-related injuries does not.”

According to its website, HWD currently operates drilling rigs at locations in Oklahoma, Kansas, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Mexico.

Nurse Axed After Injury Has Ally in EEOC, Which Files ADA Suit on Her Behalf Against Hospital

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission wants a hospital to answer in federal court why it refused to provide a reasonable accommodation to an employee with physical impairments and then fired her instead.

This Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit filed on July 25 is against Wesley Health System, LLC, dba Merit Health Wesley, a general medical and surgical hospital located in Hattiesburg, Miss.

The EEOC’s Mobile Local Office investigated the discrimination charge and discovered that Lois Cooper worked as a registered nurse for Merit Health Wesley for approximately two years before injuring her arm and shoulder. When she returned to work after a three-month leave, she presented a release from her doctor releasing her for full duty, with a heavy-lifting restriction. Despite the release, the company refused to allow her to return to work, and did so without first engaging in the legally required interactive process to determine if she was qualified to perform her job. Cooper was called into the human resources office and told that based on the lifting restriction, she could not perform job duties, and was let go.

Later, Cooper applied for an open position as a registered nurse, for which she was qualified, in another of the hospital’s clinics. Even though that position required no heavy lifting, the hospital selected another applicant.

Such alleged misconduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits employers from discriminating against an employee based on actual or perceived disability. The EEOC filed suit (Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. Wesley Health System, LLC d/b/a Merit Health Wesley f/k/a Merit Health, Case No. 2:17-CV-126-KS-MTP) in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi, Eastern Division after first attempting to resolve the matter through its pre-litigation conciliation process. The agency’s lawsuit seeks, among other things, reinstatement; monetary damages, including back pay; compensation for emotional distress; punitive damages; and an injunction to prevent further discrimination.

“Employers cannot fire an employee because of a medical impairment when it does not affect the employee’s ability to perform the essential functions of her job,” said EEOC Regional Attorney Marsha L. Rucker. “This case should serve as a reminder that employers cannot rely on myths and fears about medical impairments or disabilities in denying qualified individuals employment opportunities. To do so is a clear violation of federal law.”

District Director Delner Franklin-Thomas added, “Engaging in the interactive process is not only required by the law, but it makes sense for everyone, because it facilitates an open discussion between the employer and employee about finding a reasonable accommodation that does not impose an undue hardship on anyone.”

According to company information, Merit Health Wesley is part of the Merit Health Network, which consists of 12 hospitals throughout Mississippi.

Employer Accused of Misusing Medical Info in Hiring Process Agrees to Settle ADA Lawsuit

“Handle information on employees’ medical conditions with care.”

Those words should be etched on the walls of every HR department in the company. Otherwise, you’re apt to be slapped with an Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit, forcing you either to litigate your violation of the law or settle for a hefty sum.

Chemtrusion, Inc., a Houston-based manufacturing services company, will pay $145,000 and provide other significant relief to settle a disability discrimination lawsuit filed by the Employment Opportunity Commission, the federal agency announced on July 21.

The EEOC filed suit against Chemtrusion in October 2016, claiming that since 2012, the company refused to hire or provide reasonable accommodations to a class of job applicants at the company’s Jeffersonville, Ind., facility because of medical information it obtained during pre-employ­ment medical examinations. The company failed to conduct any individual­ized assessment of whether they could perform essential job functions, the EEOC charged.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The EEOC filed its lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, New Albany Division (EEOC v. Chemtrusion, Inc., Case No. 4:16-cv-00180) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

The EEOC and Chemtrusion voluntarily negotiated the terms of the consent decree settling the suit, without any admission of wrongdoing or liability by Chemtrusion.

In addition to monetary relief, the decree requires that Chemtrusion: (1) instruct its hiring personnel and medical providers not to conduct medical inquiries until after a condit­ional offer is made; (2) conduct individualized analysis before withdrawing job offers; (3) train its hiring personnel on what the ADA requires with respect to medical examinations and hiring; (4) submit deci­sions to rescind job offers to legal counsel for review; and (5) track rescinded offers. The EEOC will monitor compli­ance with the two-year decree.

“All the corrective measures required by the consent decree will ensure that Chemtrusion will comply with federal disability discrimination law in filling vacancies in the future,” said Kenneth L. Bird, regional attorney for EEOC’s Indianapolis District. “It will also provide a strong reminder to other employers that applicants are entitled to an individualized assessment of whether they can do a job, with or without reasonable accommodation, before a company may rescind a job offer after a medical examination.”

Eliminating barriers to recruitment and hiring, especially class-based recruitment and hiring practices that discriminate against people with disabilities or racial, ethnic, and religious groups, older workers, and women, is one of the six national priorities identified by the Commission’s Strategic Enforcement Plan (SEP).

EEOC: Hershey Refused Accommodation to Disabled Employee on Return From Leave

One overriding message emerges from the recent onslaught of Americans With Disabilities Act lawsuit: You, as the employer, must engage your disabled workers in a dialogue when they request an accommodation.  You don’t necessarily have to give the requested accommodation, but neither can you dismiss it out-of-hand or stiff the employee.

Now global candy manufacturer The Hershey Company must face the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in federal court over allegations that it refused to accommodate a disabled employee and fired her instead.

According to EEOC’s suit filed on July 19, Hershey was aware of Kristina Williams’s herniated discs and her lifting restrictions at the time of her hire in 2011 as a part-time retail sales merchandiser. Williams was diagnosed with spinal stenosis and took a short medical leave of absence in early 2015. The EEOC’s investigation found that when Williams requested flexibility to divide her daily break into smaller portions to help her stay within her lifting restrictions, Hershey refused to allow her to return to work, effectively suspending her for three months. Finally, in a letter dated Aug. 19, 2015, Hershey denied her request for accommodation and instead fired her.

Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers must provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees who have a disability. After first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed its lawsuit (EEOC v. The Hershey Company, Civil Number 2:17-CV-01092) in U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington. The agency seeks monetary damages on behalf of Williams, training on anti-discrimination laws, posting of notices at the worksite, and other injunctive relief.

“Employers cannot ignore a request for a reasonable accommodation from an employee with a disability,” said Nancy Sienko, director of the EEOC’s Seattle Field Office. “The law requires an employer to explore possible solutions to ensure that a worker can perform the essential functions of her job.”

EEOC Supervisory Trial Attorney John Stanley said, “Employers cannot unilaterally decide to respond to an injury by refusing to allow an employer to return to work. According to the ADA, the exploration of possible accommodations must include the input of the employee.”

According to company information, The Hershey Company is based in Hershey, Pa., employs over 20,000 people in 37 different states and had over $7.38 million in net sales in 2015, the year in which Williams last worked in the company’s Seattle District.

“Rigid” Maximum Leave Policy Lands Delaware Employer in Court Opposite EEOC in ADA Suit

Inflexibility in HR policies is rarely a good idea, and is especially a bad idea when it comes to employees who need accommodations for their disabilities.

A Delaware nonprofit company will have to defend its maximum leave policy in U.S. court opposite the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Connections CSP, Inc., one of Delaware’s largest non-profit organizations that provides health care, housing and employment opportunities, unlawfully denied reasonable accommodations to a class of employees and fired them pursuant to an inflexible maximum-leave policy, the EEOC) charged in a lawsuit it announced on July 17.

According to the EEOC’s suit, Connections unlawfully enforced a fixed leave policy that did not provide reasonable accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities when, as a matter of course, it refused to provide leave beyond the 12 weeks allowed under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and fired those employees when their leave expired. The EEOC charged also that Connections denied other forms of reasonable accommodations that would have allowed qualified individuals with disabilities to remained employed, such as reassignment to vacant positions. Instead, the EEOC said, Connections also placed those employees on FMLA leave and terminated them as well when their leave expired.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which prohibits discrimination based on disability. The ADA also requires an employer to provide reasonable accommodations, such as modifying leave policies to grant additional unpaid leave or transferring an employee to a vacant position for which the employee is qualified, unless the employer can prove it would be an undue hardship. The EEOC filed suit (EEOC v. Connections CSP, Inc., Case No. 1:17-cv-00862) in U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware, after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process.

“Rigid maximum-leave policies, even if they comply with other laws, violate the ADA when the policy mandates the termination of employees,” said Spencer H. Lewis, Jr., director of EEOC’s Philadelphia District Office. “This case should remind all employers of the need to engage in the legally required interactive process and provide reasonable accommodations, such as modifications of leave policies or transfers to vacant positions, on a case-by-case basis unless the employer can show it is a significant cost or disruption of business.”

EEOC Regional Attorney Debra M. Lawrence added, “While employers may have leave policies that establish the maximum amount of leave an employer will provide or permit, the ADA requires that the employer modify those policies and grant additional leave as a reasonable accommodation to employees who need it because of a disability, unless the employer can prove that doing so will cause an undue hardship,” Connections CSP repeatedly refused to modify its inflexible, maximum leave policy, or provide other reasonable accommodations as required by law, and that’s why we filed this suit.”

EEOC: Employee Was Fired for Seizure Disorder

Had this employer just talked to an employee about a possible accommodation for his seizure disorder, maybe this lawsuit could have been avoided.

Pittsburgh-based global paint supply company PPG Industries, Inc. violated federal law by terminating an employee with a disability after he suffered seizures which led to medical restrictions, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charged in a lawsuit it filed on July 14.

According to the EEOC’s lawsuit, the employee worked in the Ferndale, Mich., plant of the Revocoat company. The employee was placed on a six-month medical restriction prohibiting him from driving and operating heavy machinery because of his having suffered seizures. After that, the company put him on a medical leave of absence. While out on his medical leave, PPG Industries purchased Revocoat. The employee communicated with PPG’s human resources director and provided him with updated medical information. However, the HR director refused to provide any accommodations, and fired the employee. Thereafter, the Ferndale plant was closed.

Such alleged conduct violates the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). After attempting to reach a pre-litigation resolution through its conciliation process, the EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District Court of Michigan (EEOC v. PPG Industries, Inc., Case No. 2:17-cv-12304). The EEOC is seeking monetary relief for the employee and an injunction prohibiting PPG from engaging in this type of conduct in the future.

“Federal law prohibits employers from denying workers with disabilities a reasonable accommodation,” explained EEOC Trial Attorney Nedra Campbell. “In this case, PPG could have considered a temporary change in duties or a six-month medical leave to coincide with this man’s medical restrictions. When employers flatly refuse to even explore such measures, the EEOC will step in to make things right.”

According to its website (www.ppg.com), PPG Industries, Inc. (NYSE:PPG) is a global paint supplier. It is a Fortune 200 company that has locations throughout the United States and abroad.

EEOC Sues Call Center For Not Accommodating Account Rep Who Had Respiratory Conditions

Showing flexibility in accommodating an employee with a disability can go a long way toward avoiding confrontation with federal regulators.

Advanced Home Care, Inc., a North Carolina nonprofit corporation which operates a call support center in High Point, N.C., discriminated against a disabled employee when it failed to provide her an accommodation and then fired her, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) charged in a lawsuit filed today.

According to EEOC’s complaint, Elizabeth Pennell worked as a patient account representative at Advanced Home Care’s call center in High Point. In August 2015, Pennell, who has asthma, was hospitalized and diagnosed with chronic bronchitis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). Pennell’s respiratory conditions constitute a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). When Pennell returned from medical leave related to her disability, she asked her supervisor, the revenue program manager, if she could telework as an accommodation for her disability. Among other things, Pennell needed to telework to avoid fragrances, scents, and odors that aggravate her respiratory conditions – all of which might be found at the High Point facility on any given day. By teleworking, Pennell would be protected from actual and potential respiratory irritants at that facility.

Between August and December 2015, Pennell asked her supervisor if she could telework on at least three separate occasions. Pennell’s request was never granted. Pennell was required to take medical leave because she could not work at that facility and the company would not allow her to telework. Ultimately Pennell was fired in January 2016 after exhausting her medical leave, the EEOC said.

Such alleged conduct violates the ADA, which protects employees from discrimination based on their disabilities. The EEOC filed suit in U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina, (EEOC v. Advanced Home Care, Inc., Civil Action No. 1:17-cv-00646) after first attempting to reach a pre-litigation settlement through its conciliation process. The EEOC seeks back pay and compensatory and punitive damages, as well as injunctive relief.

“When a qualified employee with a disability is ready and willing to work, the employer has a legal duty to provide a reasonable accommodation to make that employment possible unless the employer can show undue hardship,” said Lynette A. Barnes, regional attorney for the EEOC’s Charlotte District. “Employers must be flexible in evaluating requests from their employees for reasonable accommodation.”